A trip around the great state of Oregon is an adventure that no traveler should pass up. The state is large and varied, featuring everything from rugged seascapes to high desert and most things in between. The state's largest city, Portland, is home to 609,456 residents at last count, and is currently among the fastest-growing urban areas of the nation for good reason. With world-class culinary, arts, and music scenes as well as easy access to a variety of outdoor activities, Portland provides a quality of life that's hard to beat, and visitors quickly understand why.
Independently owned coffee shops, eateries, galleries, breweries, boutiques, chocolatiers, and other small businesses are so well-represented in Portland that a simple, unstructured stroll on downtown streets reveal fresh adventures at every turn. Don't miss iconic Powell's Bookstore, the Oregon Museum of Science and Art, and Laurelhurst Theater, and when you need a reprieve from the urban kaleidoscope, head to Portland's Forest Park to reflect and recharge -- it's the largest urban forest in the country.
Just a short two-and-a-half hour drive by private car or charter bus from Portland Oregon's second-largest city, Eugene, which has a population of 159, 190 at last count. Affectionately known as 'The Emerald City' by residents and visitors alike, Eugene is home to the state's largest institution of higher education, the University of Oregon. You'll see the school's well-loved mascot, a cartoon duck, everywhere you go. Eugene's Fifth Street Public Market at the heart of the city offers boutique shopping that showcases the best of local artisans, wine bars, gourmet coffee, and a variety of eclectic events and activities. Eugene's Whiteaker District is artsy, vibrant, and features edgy cuisine, coffee and tea shops, and an impressive array of microbreweries.
Eugene is situated 50 miles from the coast. The first coastal city you'll come to traveling west from Eugene is Florence. Florence features a picturesque Old Town District teeming with galleries, boutiques, and other specialty retailers. From almost any vantage point in Old Town, you'll be able to see the bridge over the Suislaw river that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Florence is also known for its sand dunes, which stretch from just north of the city all the way down to the city of Coos Bay a little less than 50 miles to the south.
Other worthwhile cities along Highway 101 on the coast include Astoria at the northern tip of the state, Newport, about 50 miles north of Florence, Winchester bay, a world-renowned sports and commercial fishing mecca, and Bandon, a charming village with amazing seascapes. Brookings, at the southern tip of the state, features pleasant weather on a year-round basis, a thriving arts community, and is at the very edge of the northern range of North America's giant redwood trees.
The Cascade Mountain Range divides the state in half and features high lakes teeming with landlocked trout and salmon species, volcanic mountains, and vast forests. You'll have plenty of opportunities to engage in outdoor recreation during your stay in the Cascades. For an almost otherworldly experience where nature's magic touches all the senses, pay a visit to a Waldo Lake on the western slope of the mountain range about 15 miles from the small mountain town of Oakridge. Motorized watercraft of any kind is prohibited from operating on the lake, and you'll understand what they mean when they say "turn up the quiet" when you're on the lake in a rowboat or canoe or simply sitting on the banks listening to the birds and other sounds of nature.
This region represents a largely undiscovered series of gems where you'll be able to enjoy abundant unspoiled beauty without the throngs of tourists found in many other areas of the states. Baker City features Victorian architecture and stunning scenery, while the John Day Fossil Beds offer abundant opportunities for exploration.
The high desert comprises the least populated part of the state, where bus rental passengers will be able to look out the window and see herds of wild horses, elk as far as the eye can see, antelope, wild rivers, canyons, and sparsely beautiful vegetation such as sagebrush and dusty miller found on the high desert environments of the American West.
Oregon isn't something to be seen in a hurry, so relax, look out the window, and leave the driving to the professionals. Relax, look out the window, and drink in memories that will stay with you long after you return home.